With rapper J Cole set to reach the UK later this year, we delve into his Dreamville Records label.
Emerging onto the scene in 2007 with a series of well received mixtapes, North Carolina based rapper J Cole became the first act to join Jay Z’s Roc Nation imprint in 2009, before releasing the stateside No.1 record, Cole World: The Sideline Story.
Simultaneously building the Dreamville name (a blend of Cole’s time in the “City of Dreams” and his Fayetteville hometown), it was in 2014 that Cole announced live on stage that he had joined forces with Interscope to make the label dream a reality. Enthused by Interscope’s success with Kendrick Lamar, he welcomed long-time collaborator and friend Bas into the Dreamville family.
The label boasts Ibrahim Hamad as president, who also doubles up as Cole’s manager, and now celebrates a roster of six artists, all handpicked due to their innovation, personality and poignancy.
“We are the label of the connected age,” Dreamville proudly proclaims on its website. “The creators of stories. Keeping a pulse on our community while exploring new sounds, new visuals and new ways to authentically and genuinely connect with all people, around the world.” It’s an ethos that has proved particularly successful.
Towards the end of 2016, Cole once again topped the Billboard 200 with his Dreamville release 4 Your Eyez Only, which celebrates the third highest debut sales record of last year behind Drake and Beyonce. In an interview with Billboard, Hamad placed some of that success on Cole’s ability to connect with his audience. Especially in today’s social and political climate, Cole and Dreamville have something to say.
The label’s direction has subtly shifted with the times. Unlike countless others, Dreamville doesn’t rely on broad popularity for success. And it’s certainly not about pleasing critics. “It’s kind of like we passed that, we understood that that was just a very small amount of people, and that our job is not to make news for the critics, but to make music and news for the people and go directly to the people,” Hamad affirmed late last year.
Their roster further reflects the grassroots attitude, signing West Coast rapper Cozz, soulful Washington DC native Ari Lennox, Chicago lyricist Omen, and east Atlanta rapper J.I.D., as well as Bas and Cole. As the co-founder prepares to reach the UK with his 4 Your Eyes Only Tour, take a musical journey through Dreamville Records in the below playlist (with explicit lyrics).
The man himself released 4 Your Eyes Only on the 9 December 2016, being declared as hosting his best songwriting to date. It cleverly balances his emotions with his straight-talking, and topped the US Billboard 200 upon release.
The first act to join Cole and Hamad at Dreamville, Bas was raised in Paris until moving to Queens and kicking off his career at the age of 20. Cole mentored Bas from his early days in music, pushed forward by his signing to the label.
Cole signed Cozz (real name Cody Osagie) to Dreamville after hearing his track, Dreams. The label then released his debut full-length, featuring the track and his calling card and namesake, Cody Macc. Since then, Cozz has released the standalone My Side, as well as featuring on Dreamville’s Revenge Of The Dreamers II compilation.
Ari draws influence from some of the biggest female artists, from Ella Fitzgerald to Billie Holliday. To date, she’s released two EPs, including last year’s Pho. As with all Dreamville artists, she appeared on Revenge Of The Dreamers II, teaming up with Cozz on Backseat.
Making an early name for himself with a handful of mixtapes, including the J Cole and Kendrick Lamar featuring Afraid Of Heights, Omen released his debut record and only full-length to date, Elephant Eyes in 2015. He most recently teamed up with Donny Trumpet for 48 Laws, taken from the Dreamville compliation.
The newest signing to the Dreamville family, East Atlanta rapper J.I.D. released his debut single Never in December 2016.
Check out J Cole on tour across the UK here:
12 October 2017 – Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
14 October 2017 – Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
15 October 2017 – The O2, London
20 October 2017 – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
21 October 2017 – Manchester Arena
22 October 2017 – First Direct Arena, Leeds
Grab tickets for the tour now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.